Monday, July 16, 2012
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: JIMMY CLIFF - REBIRTH
Yet Cliff's contributions have been many, although never quite as political or controversial as Marley. He leaned towards the pop side more, and was always more at home with the commercial influences of 60's U.S. soul music, and his roots in ska and rock steady, the precursors of reggae. Not to say he never went that harder route, just not all the time.
This is a welcome return to Cliff's best sounds, and certainly his best work since the 70's. It's a surprising production by Tim Armstrong of Rancid, a big reggae fan. The goal was simple, to return to the classic sounds of Cliff's late 60's - early 70's heyday, and that's exactly what they've done. Cliff hasn't lost a bit of his voice, and wanted this bad. His lyrics are direct and captivating, full of the more subtle messages which mark his best work. The cut Reggae Music is a highlight, as he tells his life story, from the music side, and his commitment to human rights. Children's Bread is another strong one, chastising those who starve the youngest for their own profit. Cliff wrote 'em all here, except for a cover of Rancid's Ruby Soho, and an inspired choice, The Clash's best reggae number, Guns Of Brixton. Not only is it a great song, and an excellent version, Cliff's character in The Harder They Come, Ivanhoe, is name-checked, so it's downright perfect, bringing it all full circle.
The music is great throughout, thanks to Armstrong's core studio group. It's not punk'ed up at all, but the original sounds of ska, rock steady, and the right soul and pop touches. Considering that nobody really does reggae right anymore, and most Jamaican output the last 20 years has sucked as they chased dance hall hits, and whatever, this is the best new reggae album in decades, methinks.